CAMBRIDGE, MASS. -- Participants at a three-day conference on women as bishops in the Episcopal Church have vowed not to wait for the worldwide meeting of Anglican leaders in summer before seeking the election of women.

Bishop H. Coleman McGehee Jr. of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan invited advocates of women as bishops to organize an election campaign as his diocese prepares to elect his successor in May.

And the Rev. Carol Cole Flanagan, president of the Episcopal Women's Caucus, urged that women be nominated in all five dioceses that will choose bishops before summer. They are in Iowa, southern Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

"This is the first time this movement {for women as bishops} has been so overtly vocalized," said the Rev. Linda Naef, director of continuing education at Episcopal Divinity School and chairwoman of the closing plenary session of the conference, held at the Episcopal Divinity School.

The canons of the Episcopal Church have authorized the ordination of women to all three orders of clergy -- bishop, priest and deacon -- since 1976.

To date, about 800 women have been ordained priests in the Episcopal Church, but women priests are still not accepted in some other Anglican churches, including England and Australia. No woman has been elected bishop so far, but the Episcopal House of Bishops has twice gone on record indicating its willingness to consecrate a woman as bishop.

David Booth Beers, chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and a member of a national church committee that studied the question of women as bishops, said election of a woman to the episcopate is just a matter of time.

Only six active bishops oppose the election of women as bishops, Beers said. "The number of priests and laity so opposed that they would walk out is very few."

The Rev. Suzanne Hiatt -- one of 10 women ordained to the priesthood in 1974, two years before the church's General Convention officially authorized women for the priesthood -- said the decision on women bishops will be made by individual member churches of the Anglican communion. "I don't think it matters what Lambeth does," she said. Lambeth is the once-a-decade conference of Anglican leaders scheduled for the summer.

McGehee of Michigan noted that the committee organizing Michigan's diocesan convention has invited United Methodist Bishop Judith Craig, one of the first women to hold such an office in her church, to address the diocesan convention that will choose his successor.

Flanagan of the Women's Caucus said that women elected as bishops by the dioceses in the spring could be affirmed when the General Convention meets in July. Under church law, a person elected bishop by a diocese must have the approval of the majority of other dioceses in the church before he or she can be consecrated.